Any word in any fucking lexicon will start to sound funny if you repeat it aloud enough times. That's because after hearing a word x times, your mind starts to realize that there's no context associated with it, and therefore it lacks the meaning(s) it would have under normal circumstances. Your mind starts to analyze the sounds that make up the word, and the actions that are being taken by your vocal cords, tongue, teeth and nasal passages to create the sounds.

Talking is something that you probably do often enough that your spinal cord can takes care of it most of the time. When your conscious mind starts examining it, though, you start to realize how silly the whole process is. Words have symbolic meaning, as opposed to pictures, which inherently refer to the things they represent. If you take away the meanings of a word, then it becomes pointless to go through the act of saying it; the longer you continue to say the word, the more apparent this becomes.

I would put to you all the question: What word doesn't get to that unfamiliar place between meaning and sound if you repeat it enough?

When you say a word in normal conversation, there is a meaning attatched to that sound you just made. Repeat it over and over, and you lose sight of the meaning, concentrating more and more on the actual noises coming out of your mouth. Disbeliever? Infidel? Try it yourself.

If it's your first time, give yourself plenty of time to dissociate any feelings or emotions that are attatched to this articulation. Let's use "mother" - forget the meaning of the word, the feeling that you get when you think of your own mother, and anything else you think you know about this combination of utterances. Thats all it is. Those six letters dont represent or embody your mother, do they? Of course they don't. Don't even think about the letters themselves. Just hear the sound when you say it. mother. mother. mother. Sometimes it helps to vary the speed a little. Say it quickly. Say it uniformly. Just keep saying it. It really will come in a moment of enlightenment one of these times. That moment is great...and you will hear "mother" that way for a good hour or so. You can't force it back together with its meaning or personal connotation, It'll just fall back there, waiting for you to split it up again.

This effect can occur when programming a computer. In computer languages, words like 'while', 'next', 'last', or 'else' take on new meanings which only make sense in the context of the computer language. As well, the laws of English grammar and punctuation do not apply, so these words don't appear in sentences as we expect to see them.

The result of all of this occured to me whilst I was debugging a fairly hairy while-loop in Perl. I was reading code like "while ($x) { $y or last; $z++ and next; ..." and saying it out loud to myself. All of a sudden I lost all sense of the meaning of the word 'last'. I produced the sound experimentally with my mouth and decided it was very odd. "Last... last... last..." Very nasal and alien to me. I then tried 'next' and found the same strangeness. The episode was extremely creepy but the feeling went away when I stopped working and took a break.

One fan of this practice says "the word becomes feral...reduced to its essential nature, without any mental meaning."1 The word becomes nonsense, like a word you just made up.

In keeping with the idea that "[a]ny word in any fucking lexicon will start to sound funny if you repeat it aloud enough times," this also works with your name. I don't recommend that just anyone try it, because it may trigger a severe state of self-disassociation, which may not be good for some people. I mean, what if your name, the one you've had for $age years and become so attached to, meant nothing more than "fnord" all of a sudden? It's a bit unsettling. However, realizing that your name doesn't really mean anything is an interesting Zen-like experience.

Note: a similar experience to the above can be achieved by traveling somewhere where no one knows you, and going by a completely different name. After a few days of not responding to people when they call you by your new name, your old/original name becomes separate from you — like you actually became a new person. Weird.

after a while after staring at it or any other word, it loses its meaning. after minutes of repeating the same word over and over, you start to forget that "jeep" is an automobile designed to go over rocky terrain and look cool and pick up hott [sic] chicks, but hear only the grunts of your ancestors telling each other to "shut the hell up there are sabertooth tigers nearby." after staring at your name, the words that make up your identity, you start to forget what they tell you in grammar school. that you are special, that there is no one like yourself, and start to see yourself as an unidentified person in an unidentified community on an unidentified country on an incredibly small planet that, nomatter [sic] how much youd [sic] like to think so, is not the center of the universe.2

eponymous points out that the repetition of words is an important part of J. D. Salinger's Frannie and Zooey (the Jesus Prayer), and notes that it ends with her repeating her name. I haven't read the book, but now I'm gonna.

If you're really trying to throw your brain for a loop, repeat your name many times while in a state of your favorite type of intoxication. (If you're in the market for an extreme mindfuck, I recommend DXM.)

Finally, I'm sorry to report that this doesn't work if you type something enough times. I typed "feral" fifty fucking times and it still means "wild" to me. However, my fingers started mistyping it nearly every time — perhaps that's the body's way of losing the context of a motion...?


1: Afloat in Mom's Ocean: http://www.oddsbodkin.com/articles/Mom's_Ocean.html
2: the noise that seems to fascinate them: http://www.suresotoo.blogspot.com/

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